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Helping plants grow

Design challenge

2 activities


11-14 yrs, 14-16 yrs

Two design challenge activities that could last for one or more extended sessions in a formal lesson, code club or maker space context.

In the Tree protector project, students use the radio on the BBC micro:bit to create a prototype sensor to send alerts when trees are being illegally cut down.

In the more advanced Auto-farmer project, students make moisture sensors and create a prototype of an automated farming system. 

Computer systems:


Design & technology:


Global Goals:

15 Life on land




Arm School Program

These projects are contributed by the Arm School Program

Overall key learning

  • Learn how technology can help protect plant life for the benefit of the environment and growing food.
  • Discover how wireless networks are used for practical purposes.
  • Design, test and build physical working prototypes using programming and, optionally, with some simple electronics.

Additional skills

Design thinking, prototyping, iterative process.

Activity 1: Tree protector

Use the micro:bit’s radio functionality to make prototype sensors to protect forests by sending alerts when trees are being illegally cut down. Learn about how in the real world, sensors are connected through gateways to the internet.

Key learning:

  • Understand what the Global Goals are
  • Understand what goal 15 is and its significance
  • Understand the basics of IoT
  • Produce an IoT ‘tree protector’ product to meet the success criteria
  • Develop the product further with additional features
Activity 1 details

Activity 2: Auto-farmer

Use relays and home-made moisture sensors to make a prototype of an automated farming system that senses when crops are dry, saving water and increasing food production.

Key learning:

  • Understand what the Global Goals are
  • Understand what goal 15 is and its significance
  • Understand the basics of transmitting data
  • Produce a data node product to meet the success criteria
  • Develop the product further with additional features
Activity 2 details

England National Curriculum

KS3 computing curriculum

Curriculum aims:

  • can understand and apply the fundamental principles and concepts of computer science, including abstraction, logic, algorithms and data representation
  • can analyse problems in computational terms, and have repeated practical experience of writing computer programs in order to solve such problems
  • can evaluate and apply information technology, including new or unfamiliar technologies, analytically to solve problems

Students should be taught to:

  • design, use and evaluate computational abstractions that model the state and behaviour of real-world problems and physical systems
  • understand the hardware and software components that make up computer systems, and how they communicate with one another and with other systems
  • undertake creative projects that involve selecting, using, and combining multiple applications, preferably across a range of devices, to achieve challenging goals, including collecting and analysing data and meeting the needs of known users
  • create, reuse, revise and repurpose digital artefacts for a given audience, with attention to trustworthiness, design and usability

Read the full KS3 computing curriculum

KS3 DT curriculum


  • develop specifications to inform the design of innovative, functional, appealing products that respond to needs in a variety of situations


  • investigate new and emerging technologies
  • test, evaluate and refine their ideas and products against a specification, taking into account the views of intended users and other interested groups
  • understand developments in design and technology, its impact on individuals, society and the environment, and the responsibilities of designers, engineers and technologists

Technical knowledge

  • understand how more advanced electrical and electronic systems can be powered and used in their products (for example, circuits with heat, light, sound and movement as inputs and outputs)
  • apply computing and use electronics to embed intelligence in products that respond to inputs (for example, sensors), and control outputs (for example, actuators), using programmable components (for example, microcontrollers)

Read the full KS3 DT curriculum

Curriculum for Wales

Science and technology

Progression step 4 - computation is the foundation for our digital world:

  • I can decompose given problems and select appropriate constructs to express solutions in a variety of environments.
  • I can select and use data structures that efficiently manage data in algorithms.
  • I can plan and implement test strategies to identify errors in programs.
  • I can select and use multiple sensors and actuators that allow computer systems to interact with the world around them.
  • I can explain how systems communicate, in order to design a network.
  • I can explain the techniques used to store and transfer data and understand their vulnerabilities.
  • I can identify, define and decompose problems, choose appropriate constructs and express solutions in a variety of environments.
  • I can test, evaluate and improve a solution in software.
  • I can design and create physical systems that use appropriate components and logic to complete tasks and achieve goals.

Read the full science and technology curriculum

Digital competence framework

Progression step 4 - data and computational thinking - problem-solving and modelling:

  • I can create a simple model or self-contained algorithm.
  • I can identify the different parts of an algorithm to determine their purpose.
  • I can detect and correct errors in algorithms.

Progression step 5 - data and computational thinking - problem-solving and modelling:

  • I can independently create and design models, and explain how they represent real-world problems, e.g. selecting and correctly using an appropriate method for illustrating a problem, such as a flowchart or spreadsheet.
  • I can develop logical solutions to determine the input, outputs and processes of a program, e.g. following pseudocode or a flowchart to come to an outcome, developing a written sequence of steps that could be followed.

Read the digital competence framework

CS Discoveries

Unit 1

Concepts included:

  • problem solving
  • inputs and outputs
  • storing and processing information

Unit 4

Concepts included:

  • social impact of computing
  • understanding the needs of others when designing a solution
  • team project
  • testing and acting on feedback
  • iteration

Unit 6

Concepts included:

  • hardware
  • sensors
  • inputs and outputs

Read the full CS Discoveries curriculum

USA CSTA Standards

Grades 6-8

  • 2-CS-02 - Design projects that combine hardware and software components to collect and exchange data.
  • 2-AP-10 - Use flowcharts and/or pseudocode to address complex problems as algorithms.
  • 2-AP-13 - Decompose problems and subproblems into parts to facilitate the design, implementation, and review of programs.
  • 2-AP-17 - Systematically test and refine programs using a range of test cases.
  • 2-AP-18 - Distribute tasks and maintain a project timeline when collaboratively developing computational artifacts.

Read the CSTA Standards in full.